The millennium was not kind to the double chevron brand. Around this time, cars were grey and bland, offering very little in the way of innovation. Had this not been Citroen, many would have probably not really noticed. However, Citroen is a name synonymous with innovation. Andre Citroen, founder of this undeniably French manufacturer, was a man enamoured with innovation, from bringing mass production techniques to Europe, to creating the iconic DS with its “floating magic carpet” ride of the hydropneumatic suspension and swivelling headlamps. Even the humble 2CV was an innovation tour de force.
However, in the year 2000, this innovation seemed to disappear. There was the odd flourish, such as the lane-assisting vibrating steering wheel in the C4, or the beautiful C6 with its concave rear window, but overall this French brand of all things mad was going through a lucid phase.
So what is making Citroen great again? Its return to innovation. For too long this brand has wallowed in beige dullity, blending into obscurity like your grandmother’s tights. Now though, the fishnet stockings are out.
In 2014, the lunacy suddenly returned. Out of nowhere, Citroen released the C4 Cactus, featuring its car park friendly air bumps. It’s a fantastically simple car, on the inside and out, and one which, I consider to be the spiritual successor to the 2CV, for its simple approach to motoring. For a car of this class it is remarkably lightweight, featuring engines which are adequately powerful and frugal. What makes it so great to my eyes, is that it is a car designed for the needs of the everyday driver. It has not gone for the sporty approach, something every manufacturer goes for. Citroen has opted to take an approach of providing a car with things you might consider useful. So in the interior you find a simple dashboard with just a touchscreen to control all the functions of the car, and a simple screen behind the steering wheel to take the place of an instrument cluster. The dashboard airbags have been moved to the ceiling to allow more space for a large top-opening glove-box. Make no mistake, this is an unashamedly practical approach to car design, but Citroen being french there is still typical flair to the design. So , there is a leather belt type design on the glove compartment, the door handles are leather grab handles. Bench seating also makes a comeback! Well almost. The seats are big and comfy, as every french car should have.
The Cactus is not even a one-off. The C4 Picasso, as many reviewers will tell you, provides the best approach to people moving, with the most family-friendly interior of any car within this sector.
Now we have the recently revealed C3 hatchback. This car builds on the same success recipe a the C4 Cactus but adds more Citroen-ness. So the Air Bumps remain, albeit in a slightly different interpretation. There is an inbuilt dashcam which records the 60 seconds before a collision occurs. As someone who was recently involved in a traffic accident, I can easily claim how important this feature is to have. The dashboard also follows the Cactus’ simple approach.
Is that all?By far no. Although Citroen recently put their hydropneumatic suspension to rest, they haven’t forgotten about their heritage and have revealed plans for a new innovation in passenger comfort, involving a new suspension design modification which is said to be cheaper to utilise than the hydropneumatic one which went before it. Along with this new suspension, there is a new memory-foam seat design to further complement the push for comfort. As of yet, it is still early days for this new system, but reviewers who were given an early look at the system seemed to like it. Add this system to CItroen’s recently revealed plans to bring back their big saloons and it’s back to October 1955 again!
So, love or hate this brand, know that Citroen is back to its old ways of madness and brilliance. Quite simply, Andre Citroen’s brand is back to being great again.